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Oliva to retire as Christ the King’s basketball coach

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Ending months of speculation, Bob Oliva will retire as Christ the King boys’ basketball coach Monday, he told Five Boro Sports Sunday night in a phone interview.

“I’m just done with it, physically and mentally,” he said from his condo in South Carolina.

Joe Arbitello, the school’s athletic director, has coached the team in Oliva’s absence. He will remain as head coach.

“He’s a wonderful leader,” Oliva said of Arbitello. “He reminds me a lot of me when I was younger.”

Oliva called it quits after 27 years as Royals varsity head coach, where he accumulated a record of 549-131 and won four CHSAA Class AA intersectional titles. His final game as Christ the King coach was a 56-48 loss to Holy Cross in last year’s city championship game at Fordham University on March 10. It was the Royals’ third straight appearance in the title game.

During his tenure, he coached numerous Division I players, including Florida’s Erving Walker and Malik Boothe of St. John’s. He’s also coached one Major League Baseball player (Allen Watson), one NFL player (Willie Poole) and NBA players like Jayson Williams, Lamar Odom, Speedy Claxton and Derrick Phelps.

Oliva took an indefinite leave of absence this fall because of heart problems. While at church on Oct. 12 at Our Lady of Peace in Lynbrook, L.I., he felt chest pains and, fearing a heart attack, was rushed to South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside.

Doctors advised him to avoid stress, the reason for the issues. Oliva still sees a cardiologist twice a month and has blood taken twice a week.

The stress was a result of, among other things, an accusation of child molestation levied against him by Jimmy Carlino, a former longtime family friend. In April, Carlino accused Oliva of sexually abusing him more than 30 years ago and reportedly demanded $750,000 and Oliva’s resignation in a letter from a Florida law firm to make the case go away. Oliva, 63, denied the claim at the time and still does.

“People who know me know what I’m about,” he told FiveBoroSports.com in an interview last month.

Oliva said he’s been contemplating retirement during his leave of absence, but wanted to wait to see how he was doing physically and how the team played under Arbitello. That the Royals are off to a 9-1 start following Sunday’s 62-45 victory against St. Raymond’s was all Oliva needed to see to know that his team was in good hands.

Oliva, who was hired as Christ the King’s freshman coach on Oct. 2, 1978 before becoming varsity coach three years later, has followed the team from a distance. Oliva said he’s spent most of his time in South Carolina. He attended one game — a 59-41 victory at Xaverian on Dec. 21 — and met with friends and former co-workers at Christ the King once.

“I haven’t missed it at all,” Oliva said.

Posted 6:34 pm, October 10, 2011
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